Brooklyn Arcadia: A Lush Book to Inspire Nature and Culture Lovers Alike

Brooklyn Arcadia: Art, History, and Nature at Majestic Green-Wood by Andrew Garn


A review of Brooklyn Arcadia: Art, History, and Nature at Majestic Green-Wood by Andrew Garn (Rizzoli 2023). This review is a digital-only story from the Fall 2023 issue of The Urban Audubon.

By Carol Peace Robins
This is not just a bird book, but a celebration of Green-Wood Cemetery. This grand National Historic Landmark in Brooklyn is home to deceased Americans, magnificent architecture, and stately statuary, all nestled into 478 acres of thousands of trees and shrubs, flowers of every hue—and, yes, birds. Nearly 250 species of birds have been observed here. 

Photographer and writer Andrew Garn’s Brooklyn Arcadia is filled with informative essays, historic photos, and superb new photographs of this unique green space in every season, at all times of day, in all kinds of weather. 

The words of Garn and others illuminate how Green-Wood was conceived in the 1830s as New York’s first rural cemetery. Its earliest resident was interred in 1839, followed by 26,000 neighbors in the next decade. But it was the cemetery’s inviting pastoral landscape that became a popular attraction—and lovely distraction from urban life. By the 1860s, it was second only to Niagara Falls as the nation’s greatest tourist attraction. At a time when welcoming green spaces didn’t exist in New York, Green-Wood became the inspiration for Central and Prospect Parks. 

Featured are the oak, maple, hickory, tulip, and sassafras trees; lilies, roses, and wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies; and equally beguiling flowers exquisitely carved on headstones, mausoleums, and vaults. And the birds? Our own Gabriel Willow contributed his take on such favorites as Hooded Warblers, Wood Ducks, and Bald Eagles.

Among the hundreds of thousands buried at the cemetery lie Henry Ward Beecher, Peter Cooper, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Boss Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, and Jean-Michael Basquiat, as well as the less heralded.

This book will acquaint fans of Green-Wood’s unique artifacts with the nature surrounding them. And birders who know Green-Wood’s amazing cast of flying denizens will discover its majestic human-made creations.

Be sure to check the NYC Bird Alliance event calendar for upcoming outings in Green-Wood Cemetery and refer to our “Birding in Green-Wood Cemetery” guide when you visit! 

Support local bookstores and buy your copy of Brooklyn Arcadia at Lofty Pigeon, Books Are Magic, Strand Book Store, Book Culture,, or visit your local library.