After attending the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy NY, brothers Harry and Jim Schnabel would often meet for lunch near Harry’s office at 14th & K Street in Washington, DC. The prime topic for discussion was always the same: the ways and means of going into business together. Several companies offered test-boring services at that time, but not in the DC metro area. Harry and Jim decided to start a test-drilling firm that would also offer engineering recommendations, making them the first geotechnical consultant headquartered in the Washington area. The company, Foundation Test Service Inc., was incorporated in June 1956, and became known for the quality of its work and its ability to meet tight schedules. The company continued to prosper.
Harry and Jim continued to meet for lunch and, in 1959, decided it was time to launch Schnabel Foundation Company (SFC), with both investing equally in the new firm. As Harry focused on design and construction of excavation support systems, while Jim preferred consulting, the brothers decided to split the companies in 1964 so each could follow their chosen career path. They made an even trade for each other’s shares, which resulted in Harry becoming the majority owner of SFC and Jim the majority owner of Foundation Test Service, Inc., which used the partnership name, Schnabel Engineering Associates, when providing engineering consulting, and was the predecessor to Schnabel Engineering, Inc. (Schnabel).
Schnabel pioneered the use of technology and foundation systems throughout the U.S. The opening of our first branch office in Richmond, Virginia, in 1974 began a groundswell of change for our firm, including a foray into the industrial and waterfront markets, initiated by the company that would become our most long-standing client — Newport News Shipbuilding. Over decades, Schnabel opened offices throughout the East Coast, continuing to provide geotechnical and environmental engineering services as well as construction observation and testing. New offices brought new talent and new services.
Beginning in the 1990s and continuing through today, Schnabel has added complementary services of dam and tunnel engineering, mining, water resources, and water rights specialties to our portfolio through the addition of companies such as Dan McGill & Associates, Inc., Applied Geoscience & Engineering, Inc., Lachel & Associates, Inc., Geo/Environmental Services, Inc., and, most recently, Deere and Ault Consultants, Inc., as we continue to expand our expertise and grow our nationwide reputation. The expansion also helped us achieve a coast-to-coast geographic footprint, with offices most recently opening in Seattle, Washington; Boise, Idaho; Denver and Longmont, Colorado; and Austin, Texas.
The company Jim Schnabel started in Washington, DC over six decades ago has grown into a 425+ employee-owned firm with multiple subsidiary and affiliated companies working on projects for public and private organizations and businesses throughout the world. It is our privilege to expand on his vision and continue our efforts to build stronger, safer communities for present and future generations.