The closest thing to a store is the “trading post” — an open wood shelter where residents leave their castoff books, toys and clothes for neighbors to pick through. If they need booze, or rice, or a light bulb, well, they have to ask a neighbor or head across the lake.

It makes for a very tight-knit community of handy, patient and hardy people.

There are no movie theater or nightclubs, so people turn to what’s at hand for fun — nature. Only two of the islands are inhabited, and part of a third is taken up by the city’s small, downtown airport. The rest are city parkland.

When the temperature is so cold that the entire harbor freezes, that signals “time to go out and play,” said Whitney Webster, a sixth-generation islander, standing out on the frozen harbor before Algonquin Island, the crowded concrete and glass spires of the city’s downtown rising like a ghostly battalion.

Mr. Webster, 61, was out walking in the -9.4 degree afternoon (-23 Celsius) when he glimpsed a friend whizzing by in one of two local ice boats. Sure, he was dressed in jeans and leather gloves, but he couldn’t resist. The boom knocked off his hat, and his left hand went numb, but it was thrilling, cutting across the frozen lake in a sail boat rigged with three large blades.

For residents, it is country-home life in the midst of a city. “It’s like living at the cottage,” said Mr. Webster, a retired government manager. “But look at the view you have.”

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