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I do work in a couple of houses that have many of those, I don't remember what they are called though. My plumbers said those were used when plumbing was like artwork, it was meant to be seen.
 

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Back in my new construction days, (and i'm in conduit land) we had to plan ahead so pipes weren't stacked below each other with offsets on a potentially (future) ceiling.

All I can think of is that is an extremely cool way of doing that for plumbers.

Just my guess.:thumbsup:
 

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The Grand Wazoo
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It's called a crossover fitting, designed for use in tight pipe chases back when steam heat was used in high rises, they made them in larger sizes for vent lines as well.
 

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I did work in a house that was built in 1909 and had the entire basement ceiling covered in T&G beadboard. All of the water lines and electric lines were surface mounted, the house had 4 or 5 bathrooms and the pipes ran all over the place with many of those fittings. The knob and tube wiring ran in wood tracks with a wood cover screwed on, at each splice/ intersection there was a wood box and the track would go off in a different direction. Really amazing to see.
 
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