During the aboriginal and early contact periods the Catawba built settlements along the Piedmont's rivers and streams. At one time these villages probably were widely dispersed, but by the early eighteenth century European diseases and raids by enemy Indians had helped create a tight cluster of six or seven towns, with perhaps four hundred persons in each, near the junction of the Catawba River and Sugar Creek. Palisades were a common feature, as were open areas in the center for communal activities. Most towns had a large "state house," which was used for ceremonies and for greeting and housing guests. By the late eighteenth century, disease had reduced the number of settlements to one or two, and a decline in enemy raids made palisades superfluous. A century later the towns themselves were gone, and the Catawba were scattered across the landscape—some on farms, others in nearby towns—as they are today.
The aboriginal Catawba house was a circular or oval structure framed of bent saplings and covered with bark or skins. Around the time of the American Revolution they began to imitate their White neighbors and build log cabins. Today their houses are indistinguishable from those of the surrounding population.