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BADIN -- Someone who'd like to see historic, French-inspired row houses for workers could take a jaunt overseas or to the ill-fated Chicago community planned by railroad magnate George Pullman.

But this small town in the North Carolina Piedmont is a lot closer.

French owners of an aluminum company founded Badin in 1913, drawn by electric power to be harnessed from a steep gorge in the neighboring Yadkin River. They built a town based on an overriding vision of attractive design, usefulness and progressive features such as sewer and electric power for workers and bosses alike.

"It's a very special place," said architectural historian Catherine Bishir. "There was a big amount of reform of workers' houses during that period. It was sort of a proud paternalism."

World War I put an end to the company's plans, but not to the Gallic influence they had brought to Badin, named for the French owner of the company.

"This is all French architecture," Badin Mayor Jim Harrison says. "This was all in progress before the French went back to fight for their country."