The book, which Trippe is writing with Carman Ferraioli of Moorestown, N.J., is as yet untitled but is scheduled to be published early next year by the College of Design Arts at Drexel University.
The winding road that led to the book began with a neon sign.
One day in about 1977, driving on Conshohocken State Road, Trippe saw what she termed a "hideous" neon sign that was about to be erected outside a bank. She persuaded the bank's president to choose a more discreet sign, and she apprised the Gladwyne Civic Association of her success. The association asked her to be a director.
When the civic association, in 1980, was setting up two historic districts in the town, Trippe was the person who "held the other end of the tape measure" and took notes on the architectural details of more than 100 houses.
Trippe went back to her notes 1 1/2 years ago when she and Ferraioli, both students in an interior design graduate program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, prepared a photographic essay in black and white of 12 of the Gladwyne houses for a housing course.
After uncovering a wealth of history of the houses and the area, neither Trippe nor Ferraioli was satisfied to see it end with the essay, and they embarked on the book.
The earliest house featured in the book is the John Roberts House. The original structure was a one-room fieldstone house with a fireplace downstairs and a sleeping loft, and Roberts lived there with his family and servants. The house would have been considered very elegant in those days, Trippe said,
because it was built of stone - more difficult to acquire than the logs that were used to build most houses of the period.
The Lutheran Deaconness House, the newest house researched by the authors, was finished in 1927. Built for the Wood family, which owned the Allenwood Steel Co., it is a baronial mansion designed partly after a castle in Scotland.
During cold, snowy outings last winter, Trippe and Ferraioli photographed the houses, sometimes returning several times at different times of day to avoid shadows. In the spring they began writing the histories of the houses.
To research the history of Gladwyne, Trippe and Ferraioli have spent from one to three days a week at the Historical Society of Montgomery County, the county courthouse, Philadelphia City Hall archives - where they found papers signed by William Penn in the 1680s entitling four men to sell property in Gladwyne - the Pennsylvania Historical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Gladwyne Library.
By now they are adept at deciphering the faded brown script on yellowing, often crumbling, documents.
Donning glasses, Trippe often will spend the day reading wills, deeds, birth and death records, maps, old photographs and newspaper accounts, ships' passenger lists, diaries and tax records.
After deed books - huge volumes that weigh about 15 pounds - yielded nothing during a recent afternoon's research at the historical society, Trippe was ready to go to the Lower Merion Baptist Church to look at a tombstone. She did not go, though, because the elusive fact surfaced in Lower Merion Township tax records.
Persistent digging has turned up lots of facts and a few colorful anecdotes. At the time of the Revolution, John Roberts 3d, accused of stealing
from his neighbors to supply British troops, was hanged for treason. Local legend, embellishing the sketchy facts, has it that Roberts was buried under a tree in his front yard and that his ghost haunts the house.
Trippe said recently that she views Gladwyne's development as "a little capsule of American history."
The first settlers in the late 1600s were Welsh Quakers who had fled religious persecution. The land was too thickly wooded to support a farming economy, but Mill Creek, which flows through Gladwyne to the Schuylkill, was ideal for milling. By the mid-1800s, a thriving milling industry had developed in the little community called Merion Square. The Pennsylvania Rail Road later gave Welsh names to some towns along the Main Line, and Merion Square became Gladwyne, according to Trippe.
At the end of the last century, a flood washed away the dams of Mill Creek. They were never replaced, because the mills were old and becoming obsolete with the increasing use of electricity in milling. The community became a retreat for Philadelphia businessmen and their families.
The book is a first literary effort for Trippe, 55, who for 30 years has been a painter. She shows her works in oils at the Newman Galleries in Bryn
Mawr and Philadelphia.
Trippe, who lives with her husband, Kenneth, in a Pennsylvania farmhouse- style house near the center of Gladwyne, said she had "always thought it would be wonderful to be alone and paint" when her three children moved away
from home, but she found it to be lonely instead.
She was to have earned a master's degree from Drexel yesterday. She and Ferraioli, who is in his mid-20s, also plan to open an interior design business in Ardmore this summer.
She wanted to write the book about her home town, she said, "so that Gladwyne would have a record of its history." Trippe also hopes to encourage residents to preserve the town from overdevelopment, like that dread neon sign.