Modern Des Moines was founded when a fort was built in May of 1843 by Captain James Allen where the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers merge. The city's name could have referred to the river of the Moingonas, named after an Indian tribe that resided in the area and where some of their burial mounds are still visible. Others see it as referring to French Trappist monks, some of whom lived in huts at the mouth of the river, or connected to the French phrase de moyen, meaning "middle," because of its location between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Fort Des Moines became the seat of Polk County and was incorporated as a city with its own charter in 1857. By 1900, Des Moines was Iowa's largest city with a population of 62,139. Today, Des Moines is the state capital and the most populous city in Iowa with an estimated 193,886 (2006) residents.
Recently, Des Moines has been experiencing rapid growth in the western and southern suburbs and is quickly becoming a large metropolitan area and national center for financial and insurance businesses. The city is the headquarters for the Principal Financial Group, the Meredith Corporation, and Ruan Transportation. Other major corporations such as Wells Fargo, ING Group, Marsh, and Pioneer Hi-Bred have large operations in or near the metropolitan area. Forbes Magazine ranked Des Moines as the fourth "Best Place for Business" in 2007.
The city is in the midst of major construction in the downtown area. The new Science Center of Iowa and the Iowa Events Center opened in 2005, while the new central branch of the Des Moines Public Library, designed by David Chipperfield, opened on April 8, 2006. The World Food Prize Foundation, which is based in Des Moines, announced in 2001 that it will restore the former Des Moines Public Library building as the Dr. Norman Borlaug/World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. In 2002 the Principal Financial Group and the city announced plans for the Principal Riverwalk, which will feature trails, pedestrian bridges across the river, a fountain and skating plaza, and a "civic garden" in front of the City Hall. Several existing downtown buildings are being converted to loft apartments and condominiums. This trend is highlighted by the success of the "East Village" district of shops, studios, and housing between the capitol district and the Des Moines River.
Colleges and universities that call the area home are AIB College of Business, Des Moines University, Des Moines Area Community College, Drake University, Grand View College, Hamilton College, Mercy College of Health Sciences, Simpson College, Upper Iowa University, University of Phoenix - Des Moines Campus, and the William Penn University - College for Working Adults in West Des Moines.
Downtown events and attractions in the city include Iowa State Capitol, featuring a genuine gold-covered dome, The Iowa Events Center, East Village Shopping Area, Science Center of Iowa and IMAX Theater, Des Moines Botanical Center, Downtown Farmers' Market, Principal Riverwalk, Des Moines Art Festival, Des Moines Civic Center, Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines Playhouse, The Blank Park Zoo, Arie den Boer Arboretum, and the Lilac Arboretum and Children's Forest.