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The area was originally known as Galston Heights, but was renamed Arcadia after the public school was opened in 1894. The name was suggested by a local resident, a retired Royal Navy officer, G Shearston, who had visited Arcadia in Greece and felt that the two regions were similar. The word comes from a Greek legend of a rural utopia.
The first land grant in the district was 600 acres (243 hectares), given to George Hall by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1819. Including grants to Hall's children, the family's holding amounted to 900 acres (364 hectares). This land was released for sale during the land boom of the 1880s, when large tracts of government land were made available for subdivision.
Industry and immigrants
Timber-getting was the first industry in the area, and many settlers supplemented their income by selling locally grown timber, which was in demand for houses, fences and fruit boxes, and later for railway sleepers and telegraph poles.
Many of the early immigrants were Irish, arriving in the 1840s. Most were farmers who planted citrus orchids. This included William and Ann Fagan, who settled in Arcadia in 1854 with the purchase of 70 acres (28.3 hectares), paying £1 an acre. The land was fertile and the climate ideal for growing citrus fruit. By the mid-1890s, Arcadia, Galston and Dural produced more oranges than any other area in the state. At this time the Fagans were producing 3000 cases of fruit in a season. 
The Trethowans were another prominent family in the district. Alfred and Anna Trethowan bought land in Smalls Road. Alfred was involved in building the Union Church Hall in 1893, lobbying for the Arcadia Post Office (opened in 1894) and the design and building of St Columb's Anglican church. 
Telephone service arrived in the district in 1919 via an exchange housed in the Arcadia Post Office, which also served Galston and Berrilee.
Arcadia Park on Arcadia Road is an open area of playing fields and passive reserve. Covering 18.8 hectares, the park has been developed on two parcels of land, one the site of the former Arcadia tip. In the southern portion is a small area of Sydney turpentine ironbark forest. The park supports a variety of native plants and animals, including the red-crowned toadlet, powerful owl, swamp wallabies and different varieties of fruit bats.
The Arcadia-Berrilee Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade, established in 1952, is located in Arcadia Park.
Today Arcadia is a semi-rural agricultural area of farms and paddocks. Most allotments are large, and the remaining bushland and a number of unsealed roads add to the country nature of the suburb.
In 1898 Arcadia had a population of 187. In 2006, the population had grown to 1303.