(Photo: Courtesy of Friends of the Lower East Side)

(Photo: Courtesy of Friends of the Lower East Side)

An unassuming Grand Street row house built in 1833 was designated a landmark Tuesday, following a five-month push from neighborhood preservation activists.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to landmark the three-and-a-half story building at 339 Grand Street. According to the Commission, the row house is one of a row of five constructed by John Jacob Astor, a German immigrant who was the richest man in the United States at the time of his death in 1848. Astor Place was named in his honor.

In June the building went on the market, listed at $5 million. But Friends of the Lower East Side, a local preservation group, kicked into gear, launching a successful campaign to get the building landmarked before it could be sold and potentially demolished.

Landmarks Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney said the building retains much of its original Federal-style design, despite the changes that have occurred in the surrounding neighborhood. “This understated row house, by far the most intact of the five that are there now, is a significant reminder of the period after the Revolutionary War when New York City was developing into a major port and financial center,” he said in a statement.

Although not as grand as Union Square’s Tammany Hall, which was also designated a landmark Tuesday, the row house is recognizable for its bright red brick and pitched roof. The ground floor is home to “Ideal Hosiery,” which has operated in the space since 1965.  (You can read the LPC’s capsule histories of both 339 Grand and Tammany hall by viewing this PDF).

According to the Landmarks Commission, the building stayed in the family of Astor’s granddaughter, Cecilia Langdon de Nottbeck until 1950. Many of Astor’s descendants remained in New York’s wealthy elite for generations — his great-grandson, John Jacob Astor IV, built the St. Regis Hotel. One of the richest and most well known passengers on the Titanic, Astor IV died when the ship went down.

The City Council’s landmarks subcommittee is widely expected to grant 339 Grand Street its final approval.