In operation on the Oakland waterfront from 1907 to 1989, Cryer was one of the best-known builders of small boats in the Bay Area. Founded in San Francisco in the 1890s by English-born William Cryer, the yard was later taken over by his son William James Cryer, and finally his grandsons William J, Cryer III and Robert R. Cryer. Originally William Cryer & Son, later W.J. Cryer & Sons, the yard occupied two sites on Brooklyn Basin - at 11th Avenue (1907-1912) and Dennison Street (1912-1989) - initially leasing buildings from the adjacent plants of Atlas Gas Engine Company and Standard Gas Engine Company, which installed most engines on Cryer-built boats. Cryer built and repaired small wooden powerboats, making the transition to the repair of steel-hulled cutters in the 1960s.
A dozen or so employees, including welders, carpenters, and painters, worked on a wide variety of vessels, typically from 30 feet to 80 feet in length, from sturdy workboats for bay and river hauling to ocean-going yachts. The largest vessel ever built at the yard was the 130-ft. yacht of Oakland automaker R. Clifford Durant. A palatial cruiser with five staterooms and a crew of seven, the Black Swan had a range of 7,000 miles, making her maiden voyage to Hawaii in 1922. Cryer built over 40 launches and cannery tenders for the Alaska Packers Association. Oakland-based Thomas Crowley utilized Cryer-built launches and tugboats for his ship-to-shore transport and towing services. Other craft turned out by the yard included riverboats for freight and passengers, police patrol boats, and trawlers.
During World War II, when the number of employees exceeded 100, Cryer built four APC coastal transports for the Navy. Equipped with Atlas engines, the 103-ft. craft saw action in the Pacific carrying troops and cargo. Most of Cryer's postwar work involved repairs to Coast Guard cutters berthed at nearby Coast Guard Island. The 1912 boat building, wharf, and marine railway at this site comprise the last remnants of Oakland's shipbuilding heritage.