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Grace Peixotto was an American brothel owner. She owned the "Big Brick" in Charleston, South Carolina.

Grace Peixotto
BornOctober 30, 1817
DiedBy 1883
Resting placeUnitarian Church Cemetery
Known for"Big Brick" Brothel
Parent(s)Rev. Solomon Cohen Peixotto, Rachel Suares


Personal lifeEdit

Grace Peixotto was born in October 1817 on the island of St. Thomas. She was the daughter of Reverend Solomon Cohen Peixotto and Rachel Suares. She was the fifth of nine children. Her family emigrated from St. Thomas to South Carolina in 1818. Her older siblings were born in Curaçao, and her younger siblings in Charleston, South Carolina. Her father officiated as the hazan in both St. Thomas and Charleston.[1][2] His congregation in Charleston was Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, where he succeeded Hartwig Cohen, and served from 1823 to 1835.[2][3][4] By the time she was twenty years old, both of Grace's parents had died.[1] She never married.[5]


Peixotto was a brothel madam. For $2,000, she purchased a lot in Charleston on Beresford Street which measured 62 feet by 82 feet. There, in 1852, she built a three-story brick structure, which would become the "Big Brick" brothel. Later, Peixotto constructed two adjacent additional buildings, one a two-story, the other another three-story.[6][7] She became a wealthy woman, and by 1860 owned seven slaves.[8] Peixotto asked the city council to pave the area in front of her fourth ward residence, contending that she had dedicated it "to the citizens of Charleston."[9][10] She rejected the term "disorderly" to describe her house, a common euphemism for brothels in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:[11]

I know that you policemen have to make your money on the side and that we have to pay you for protection, and that's all right. I know that you have to have a raid every once in a while and fine us, and that's all right. But there's one thing I object to. I object to you writing the charge against me for maintaining a disorderly house. I want to have you know that I have the most quiet, respectable, ladylike whores south of the Mason-Dixon Line.[6]

The Big BrickEdit

The Big Brick at 11 Beresford Street featured parlors downstairs where clients could partake of brandy and a cigar; the bedrooms upstairs allowed for more intimacy.[12][13][self-published source] The privacy afforded by the Big Brick was instrumental in Wade Hampton's successful campaign to be elected as South Carolina governor in 1876. The building served as campaign headquarters and a meeting place for the Charleston Red Shirts that supported Hampton.[6] There they schemed to wrest control of the state government from Republicans.[14] Peixotto remained successful at the Big Brick throughout the Reconstruction Era.[15]


Grace Peixotto and the Big Brick served as the inspiration for Belle Watling and her bordello in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind.[12]


Peixotto died by 1883, as early as 1879.[6][16]

Local religious leaders were unsure on where she should be buried due to her work in the sex industry and role as a controversial local figure. The Unitarian Church on Archdale Street in Charleston undertook the task.[12] At the time, Peixotto's funeral procession was the second longest in Charleston history, after politician John Calhoun. Her procession consisted of empty carriages because her customers, many who were friends, would not attend the funeral. Instead, each man who wanted to honor her sent an empty carriage to follow the hearse.[6][17]

After her death, Jacob Myers, a tobacco merchant and mariner, took over ownership of the Big Brick.[16] It remained open for business as a brothel until the mid-20th century, after which it was closed down by the US Navy.[why?][6][18] Raven McDavid wrote that:

One of the lamented institutions of Charleston is the Big Brick, number 11 Beresford Street, so-called because it was made up of large blocks of stone, of cement. The Big Brick, up until 1942 when the Navy, with the usual military gross disregard for local traditions, shut it down, was supposed to be the oldest whorehouse in continuous operation in the Western hemisphere. It had a very select clientele, and it used to pride itself on the dignity and propriety of its young ladies.[6]

In 1996, the edifice at 11 Beresford Street, now 11 Fulton Street, became the headquarters of the Balzac Brothers, importers of coffee.[19]


  1. ^ a b Peixotto, Grace. "Genealogies" (PDF). The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. p. 240. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b Breibart, Solomon (2005). Explorations in Charleston's Jewish History, Volume 1 (illustrated ed.). The History Press. pp. 107–117. ISBN 9781596290471. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  3. ^ "The Jewish Congregation of Charleston". The Occident and American Jewish Advocate. Jewish-American History Documentation Foundation. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  4. ^ Emmanuel, Isaac Samuel; Emmanuel, Suzanne A (1970). History of the Jews of the Netherlands Antilles, Volume 2. American Jewish Archives. p. 826. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  5. ^ Hagy, James William (1993). This Happy Land: The Jews of Colonial and Antebellum Charleston (illustrated ed.). University of Alabama Press. p. 166. ISBN 9780817305765. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Jones, Mark R (2006). Wicked Charleston: Prostitutes, Politics and Prohibition (illustrated ed.). The History Press. pp. 19–23. ISBN 9781596291348. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  7. ^ Foster, Mary Preston (2005). Charleston: A Historic Walking Tour (illustrated ed.). Arcadia Publishing. p. 70. ISBN 9780738517797. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  8. ^ Charleston (SC) City Council; Ford, Frederick A (1861). Census of the city of Charleston, South Carolina: for the year 1861. Evans & Cogswell. p. 36. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Cynthia M (24 Nov 2005). Braided Relations, Entwined Lives: The Women of Charleston's Urban Slave Society. Indiana University Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 9780253111463. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  10. ^ Appleton, Thomas H; Boswell, Angela (2003). Searching for Their Places: Women in the South Across Four Centuries. University of Missouri Press. p. 53. ISBN 9780826262882. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  11. ^ Morton, Mark (2009). The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex. Insomniac Press. p. 221. ISBN 9781897414491. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Horton, Tom (9 Oct 2014). History's Lost Moments Volume V. Trafford Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 9781490744704. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  13. ^ Lowry, Thomas P (12 Oct 2006). Sexual Misbehavior In the Civil War: A Compendium. Xlibris Corporation. p. 47. ISBN 9781462816583. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  14. ^ Foster, Mary Preston (5 Aug 2013). Legendary Locals of Charleston (illustrated ed.). Arcadia Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 9781467100557. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  15. ^ Hieke, Anton (2013). Jewish Identity in the Reconstruction South: Ambivalence and Adaptation. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 91–92. ISBN 9783110277746. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  16. ^ a b "11 Fulton Street (Grace Peixotto House)". Historic Charleston Foundation. Historic Charleston Foundation. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  17. ^ Buxton, Geordie; Macy, Ed (2005). Haunted Harbor: Charleston's Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained (illustrated ed.). The History Press. p. 118. ISBN 9781596290747. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  18. ^ Hartley, Alan (1 Aug 2009). The Charleston Walking Tour (illustrated ed.). Traveler Communications Gro. p. 22. ISBN 9780615310909. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Our History". Balzac Brothers and Company. Balzac Brothers and Company. Retrieved 13 May 2015.