Grace 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. She became a wealthy woman, and by 1860 owned seven slaves. 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.” She rejected the term “disorderly” to describe her house, a common euphemism for brothels in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She was the inspiration for Madame Bell on Gone with the Wind.
Her letter to the police commissioner:
“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.”