The Elco started out in 1924 as the Lerner Theater. This 2000-seat theater was designed for vaudeville by K. V. Vitchum, a Chicago architect. The exterior was covered in glazed terra cotta and had a series of columns, urns, and decorative cornice and frieze. The interior had terrazzo floors, gilding, marble, and a crystal chandelier. The auditorium was colored in tones of blue and cream and crowned with a 35 foot diameter dome covered with 1400 lights. A Kimball organ was installed to compliment the entertainment on stage. By the late 1920s, the Lerner started showing motion pictures.
In 1931 the Lerner was sold to the Warner family and the name changed to the Warner. Its life as the Warner was short lived—the theater was bankrupt by 1933. Yet another name change happened in 1934 when the Indiana-Illinois Theatre purchased it. They sponsored a county wide contest to rename the theater and it became the Elco. Manta and Rose Theatre chain owned the theater until 1961 when it was sold to William Miller. Miller managed the theater through the lean years and his family sold it to the city of Elkhart in 1990. A non-profit organization was formed and began restoring the Elco. The city continued to support the theater and they began to pay for a managing director and maintenance staff in 1995.
Today the Elco serves as a performing arts center in Elkhart and hosts live acts.